Screen: Paramount

The Time Duckman Was A Total Bad-Ass

The story of a crude duck's one moment of grace.

From 1994 through 1997, the USA network aired an exceptionally crude cartoon called Duckman. I say "crude" both because the show was deliberately ugly and because there were a lot of jokes about poop and masturbation. The titular Duckman (Eric Duckman, although his first name is almost never used) is a terrible private detective, a terrible father, and a terrible person. He's voiced by Jason Alexander like George Costanza shouting everything.

It's also aggressively weird. Duckman has a son with two heads. Well, it's really two sons with one body, but that description wouldn't help you picture them very well. And there's a big, dumb son voiced by Dweezil Zappa, because this is the kind of show with a lot of Frank Zappa music in it. Did you know that was a kind of show? It turns out it is.

For the most part, Duckman is a horrible person. His catchphrase is "What the hell are YOU staring at?!" It's vaguely implied that his life (and personal habits and hygiene) took a sharp downward turn years ago, when his wife Beatrice died, but that doesn't come up very often. Because it's more fun to wallow in depravity. However, there was one moment when this ridiculous duck was a total bad-ass.

The third-season episode "The Once And Future Duck" starts out with a standard sitcom plot: Duckman's sons Charles and Mambo (they're the ones who share a body) are having a tuba recital, and they'd like their father to attend. But before things can get going, Ajax (the Dweezil Zappa son) comes in to announce that he's accidentally supercharged his clock radio, so there's "a portal in time through which anyone who's ever lived, or ever will live, can enter our time." Surely that's something that's happened to all of us at one time or another, right?

The effect of this clock-radio foolishness is that Duckman starts getting visited by future versions of himself. The first such visitor is a rich, snooty Duckman who became rich by going to the tuba recital. (He also became British somehow, but that's never addressed.) But Duckman gets distracted by a flyer announcing the grand opening of a strip club called "The Grand Opening." Look, I never said this show was classy. As soon as he considers the strip club, a destitute Future Duckman shows up. When Duckman decides he's definitely going to go to the recital and become rich, he finds out that after he's rich, he gets thrown in jail.

At this point, two things happen. First, there's an inexplicable guest appearance by Rhonda Shear, who hosted a show called USA Up All Night, which showed bad movies. She hosted on Fridays, which I mention so that in case you go back in time to the mid-'90s, you can avoid the Saturday version, which was hosted by Gilbert Gottfried. The other thing that happens is that Duckman becomes catatonic, frozen by indecision because he's starting to see the possible results of his actions.

The family goes to the recital, leaving him alone, and future selves start jumping out at him all over the place. There's a legless Duckman, a Duckman being eaten by a tiger, a snooty poet Duckman, a crazed serial killer Duckman, James Madison (not a Duckman), a Duckman from three seconds ago, a Duckman from twelve seconds in the future, and so forth. He runs into his bedroom, and this is where it gets awesome.

For the first time, he's visited by a Duckman from the past. This one, a fresh-faced, optimistic Duckman, is from eighteen years ago, and he's about to get married. He asks the Modern Duckman, "My marriage. Am I doing the right thing, marrying Beatrice? Do we grow old together?" The current version of Duckman looks at him, and (I might be projecting here) thinks about the horrible life he has, and he thinks about whether you can know the results of your actions. He decides not to screw with his younger self. Instead, he just tells him, "You're gonna love her until the day you die." Young Duckman says, "Maybe I don't need to know any more than that." And then he's gone, off to marry his true love, not knowing that she'll eventually die and all his optimism and faith will die along with her.

It's practically the only moment in the entire series where we see Duckman confront his past, and the fact that he chooses to allow himself to embrace the moment is totally bad-ass.

Ande then he throws the clock radio in the sink, sending all the future Duckmen into a portal in a more traditionally bad-ass scene. He goes to the tuba recital after all, although he accidentally causes a a huge catastrophe by switching chairs. And riches and Britishness both elude him forever.

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